Revision issued June 12, 1915.
U. S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE.
BUREAU OF PLANT INDUSTRY Circular No. 102.
B. T. GALLOWAY, Chief of Bureau.
'HE PRODUCTION OF HAIRY VETCH SEED.
C. V. PIPER,
Agrostologist in Charge of Forage- Crop Investigations,
Botanist in Charge of Seed Laboratory.
BUREAU OF PLANT INDUSTRY.
CTiic; of Bureau, BEVEKLY T. GALLOWAY.
Assistant Chief o] Bureau, WILLIAM A. TAYLOR.
Editor, J. E. ROCKWELL.
Ghie/ Cleric, JAMES E. JONES.
n. P. I.-773.
THE PRODUCTION OF HAIRY VETCH SEED.
During the past seven years the culture of hairy vetch has increase^
in the United States at least tenfold. The crop is constantly growing
in favor in the Southern States for winter coyer and hay. In the
North it is being used more and more on sandy lands and also on
other soils where red clover no longer gives satisfactory returns.
This rapid increase has been hi spite of the fact that the seed has
been relatively costly, the farmer rarely purchasing it as low as $5
a bushel, while in the last three years the seed has commanded
$6 to $9 a bushel. This increase in price seems to be due mainly to
the increased American demand, as the actual supply grown, in
Europe is not large and thus far but little has been produced in the
United States. The higher prices will doubtless tend to stimulate
the growing of this seed in Europe, but it can be profitably produced
in many parts of this country. Undoubtedly it will be economical
for American farmers to grow the hairy vetch seed needed locally,
and any surplus can always be sold at good prices. In good vetch-
seed sections a crop of 5 bushels of hairy vetch and 20 bushels of
rye to the acre can reasonably be expected, and under favorable
conditions 10 to 12 bushels of hairy vetch seed to the acre can be
grown. Even at $3 or $4 a bushel such crops are very profitable,
and at this price the demand for the seed would certainly increase
enormously. In view of this increasing demand, Ameiican farmers
are urged to grow seed of this crop, at least for their local use, and
also where the conditions prove very favorable to supply the general
market. Satisfactory machines are now available to separate hairy
vetch seed from rye.
SOURCES OF SEED.
At present practically all the seed used in this country is imported
from Russia and Germany. Table I, showing the quantity of seed
imported each fiscal year ended June 30 since 1905, together with
the import prices, is based on the record of customhouse samples.
It will be noted that the quantity of seed imported has increased
very rapidly, especially since 1908.
PRODUCTION OF 'JAIRY VETCH SEED.
7-ABjLE I. Hairy vetch seed importations.
July 1, 1914, to May 30,
The average price is considerably lower than the average price for
a good quality of seed, because in these lots are included many which
are low in quality, both on account of adulteration and low vitality.
EUROPEAN METHODS OF GROWING HAIRY VETCH SEED.
In the Baltic Provinces of Russia hairy vetch occurs as a more or
less persistent weed in grain fields, and practically all of the supply
of the seed from that region is secured by separation from the rye
In Prussia, especially in the provinces of East and West Prussia
and Pomerania, there is extensive production for seed, but in Ger-
many generally more hairy vetch is raised with rye for green fodder
than for seed. The rate of seeding used in Germany is considerably
heavier than that which has been found advisable for seed purposes
in this country. The German Agricultural Society recommends
sowing 53 pounds of hairy vetch and 72 pounds of rye to the acre,
but the average rate of seeding is somewhat less, though the crop is
usually grown on light, sandy soil where a comparatively heavy
seeding is needed. Hairy vetch seed is universally sown with winter
rye and usually with the variety known as Johannesroggen, or
St. John's rye. This variety of rye is peculiar in that it can be sown
as early as June and at any time thereafter until the latter part of
September. It is a very free-stooling variety and makes a large leaf
growth close to the ground. This rye supplies excellent pasturage in
the fall, and the date of maturity is 10 to 15 days later than common
SEPARATION OF HAIRY VETCH SEED FROM RYE.
As hairy vetch is usually sown in combination with rye it is not
necessary to separate the mixed seed as harvested when about one-
third of the mixture is vetch. Such mixed seed is far more economi-
cal to use than to pay the present high price for imported seed.
When a separation of the seeds is desirable it is easily and effect-
lively accomplished by the use of a spiral separator, known in Europe
as "Schneckentrieur," which requires no power, being operated by
gravity. This apparatus is covered by United States Letters Patent
PRODUCTION OF HAIRY VETCH SEED. 5
No. 627970, dated July 4, 1899, and is now manufactured for sale in
the United States. The machines seen in Russia had a capacity of
50 to 75 bushels a day.
A satisfactory separation of vetch seed can also be made by use
of a cloth-belt apparatus by means of which the rye or other cereal
seed is carried up and away on a belt, while the vetch seed falls over
the belt to the bottom. A number of forms of this machine are
patented, designed especially for the separation of buckhorn from
clover seed. A separation which is sufficiently good for preparing
mixed rye and vetch seed for sale locally can be obtained by letting
the mixed seed run over a series of inclined boards, each set at a given
angle and a slight distance apart, so that the vetch seed will run from
one board to another and the rye seed, which does not run so readily,
will drop through between the boards. This can easily be made by
anyone for home use and requires no power to run, as the seed is
simply allowed to fall over a series of steps.
GROWING HAIRY VETCH FOR SEED.
Hairy vetch wall produce a good crop of seed in most States. The
largest crops have been grown on the Pacific coast, but those produced
in the Northern States are but little smaller. In the Southern States
the seed crop seems to vary greatly with the season, but good yields
have been obtained.
Hairy vetch is a whiter annual, behaving like winter wheat. If
planted in the srping, it may produce a few blossoms the same season,
but will make little or no seed until the following season. If planted
in the fall, it ripens its seed crop the following July. Spring sowing
is seldom advisable, and then only on the Pacific coast and hi the arid
regions. When spring sown, it is best to pasture the crop the first
season. In the Eastern and Northern States spring seeding should
never be practiced, as the plants seldom survive the humid heat of
Through the lack of the proper nitrogen-forming bacteria, hairy
vetch frequently fails to produce a crop on land where it has not pre-
viously been grown. It is therefore advisable, whenever hairy vetch
is seeded on land for the first time, to inoculate the seed with a pure
culture of the nitrogen-forming bacteria, or to inoculate the soil with
soil from a field where hairy vetch is being grown.
The seed may be sown from the middle of August till November,
September being the best month. If sown alone, 40 pounds of good
seed to the acre are sufficient, though 60 pounds are frequently used.
As a general practice, however, it is better to sow it in conjunction
with a small-grain crop oats, winter wheat, or rye. Oats are often
used in the South, but in the North wheat or rye must be used. Rye
is the favorite, but if intended for hay the wheat combination is more
6 PRODUCTION OF HAIRY VETCH SEED.
nutritious. In growing such mixtures for seed, enough grain is used
to make about two-thirds of a stand and 20 pounds of the vetch seed
are added. Such a mixed crop is easily cut with a mower having a
swather attachment, or even with a binder. If more vetch is used
it is liable to lodge, especially in spots where the vetch is thick, and
the mowing is therefore rendered more difficult.
Where hairy vetch is planted alone, it nearly always becomes more
or less lodged, and should be mowed, if possible, against the direction
in which most of it is lying. After cutting the first swath, it should
be rolled upon the uncut vetch before cutting the second swath. The
two swaths should then be rolled out clear from the uncut vetch.
Sometimes three swaths are combined in this way. The cut vetch
should not be handled more than is necessary in curing, and care
should be taken in shocking to cover the pods as much as possible.
Hay caps are very desirable for this purpose. In thrashing pure
vetch it is sometimes desirable to have sharpened teeth on the con-
caves, as long vetch is inclined to wrap about the cylinder.
If hairy vetch is pastured rather late, the subsequent growth will
not be tall, but often is heavily set with pods. The same result can
be obtained by cutting the vetch early and feeding it green or putting
it into a silo. Such a second crop is much more easily mowed than
tall vetch, and in some instances excellent seed crops have been thus
Some farmers obtain their own supply of seed by cutting hairy vetch
for hay rather late, i. e., after some of the pods have ripened. Much
of this seed will rattle to the bottom of the mow, especially if a little
care is taken to shake each forkful as it is being used for feed. Such
late cutting reduces slightly the value of the hay, but the seed obtained
often justifies the practice.
Hairy vetch ripens its pods over a period of two or three weeks.
The best crops are obtained when the first pods are fully ripe and the
upper pods well filled. The latter ripen in the shocks, and if carefully
handled comparatively few of the ripe pods shatter. It is best to cut
the crop early in the morning or on a cloudy day. In any event the
vetch, whether cut in bundles or otherwise, should be put into shocks
at once and left thus till thrashed. The most important rule is to
handle the cut crop rapidly and as little as possible.
An incidental advantage to the use of locally grown hairy vetch
seed is its much better germinating quality. Old seed has a large
percentage of hard seeds, which lie in the ground a long time without
sprouting and which are practically valueless to the farmer. Fresh
samples collected in Europe in 1911 gave a uniformly high germina-
tion, only one testing below 91.5 per cent. Imported seed, which is
usually 1 year old, frequently shows a hard-seed content of 10 to 40
PRODUCTION OF HAlffl' VETOiJ ' SEED/. ,
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8 PRODUCTION OF HAIRY VETCH SEED.
EXPERIMENTS IN GROWING HAIRY VETCH SEED IN AMERICA.^
While hairy vetch for hay or green manure has long been grown]
successfully in nearly all parts of the United States and Canada,
there has been relatively little investigation made of its seed produc-l
tion. Table II is a compilation of published American data in
seed production, together with unpublished results obtained by the
Department and its cooperators.
These results show yields ranging from 3 to 15 bushels per acre,
with an average of 6^ bushels for all the trials. Such a yield makes
a decidedly profitable crop. Where vetch is grown alone the seedi
yields are heavier, but this is largely counterbalanced by the diffi-
culty of harvesting, so that it is advisable as a rule to grow it in
combination with rye.
Secretary of Agriculture.
WASHINGTON, D. C., August 7, 1912.
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